Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New regional elections offices bring voters closer to the process

Minutes after Supervisor of Elections Earl Lennard and chief of staff Craig Latimer cut the ribbon on the elections staff's new regional office in Riverview, a 72-year-old man walked through the doors and registered to vote for the first time in his life.

Watching that new voter add his name to the system underscored their belief that two new regional offices will bolster the supervisor's primary objectives.

A South County office (10439 Gibsonton Drive) and a Northwest office (12022 Anderson Road) opened this month, allowing residents to register, request vote-by-mail ballots and update names, addresses, signatures and party affiliations.

I'll champion any effort that provides voters greater access and, hopefully, gets more people to vote.

But in an age in which almost every government expenditure falls under scrutiny, some may wonder if the office needed to spend tax dollars on outreach centers. Lennard, however, said costs are being minimized.

"We're still within our budget," Lennard said. "The personnel working here would be working either at County Center or the Gilder Service Center (in north Brandon). When they aren't helping customers here, they will be answering e-mails through, just like they would at County Center or the Gilder Center.

"Basically, it's a call center. We outsourced. But instead of outsourcing overseas, we outsourced to Riverview."

The only added expense incurred was for leasing the space, Lennard said.

The immediate benefit of the regional offices is that it helps people avoid having to drive downtown or to the Gilder Center. For South Shore residents, a trip to the Gilder Center ranges between 18 and 44 miles round-trip.

The locations, however, were picked for reasons beyond short drives. The Riverview office, in the Riverview Town Center on Gibsonton Drive and U.S. 301, sits along a major corridor that runs in and out of FishHawk Ranch. Latimer noted that community doesn't have a public library where the public can pick up voter registration forms.

The same could be said for northwest Hillsborough, with no public library in the immediate vicinity of Odessa and Lutz. Drivers in that region face a round-trip drive of 26 to 52 miles to County Center, plus the challenge of paying for parking in downtown Tampa.

While many of the services provided can be accessed online, Latimer said that not everyone has a computer, and the office must take generational and cultural factors into consideration. That's a concern expressed by Sun City Center residents who already have come to the new Riverview office.

"Some people want to communicate face-to-face," Latimer said.

The regional offices also will be used for poll worker training, providing additional savings to volunteers who won't have to drive as far.

While the regional offices appear to be a good idea, the supervisor must strive to get more people to actually vote.

Lennard said the Help America Vote Act will help fund young adult outreach initiatives, but he also encouraged older adults to overcome the cynicism or apathy.

"We have to get over this idea that it doesn't matter," Lennard said. "It does matter. You can really change things if you exercise your right to vote.

"We have to get to a point in America where we can pull together regardless of political affiliation and participate. We need to send a message that every vote does count."

The message has been sent before, but if we must send it again, so be it. We can't do too much to promote one of our most precious freedoms.

That's all I'm saying.

New regional elections offices bring voters closer to the process 10/13/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 13, 2011 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SEOUL —Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing and five have been injured after the USS John S. McCain destroyer collided with an oil tanker near Singapore early Monday morning.

    In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain patrols in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. Ten sailors were missing, and five were injured, the Navy said. [James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP]
  2. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion


    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  3. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  4. Bucs counting on better health creating better pass rush


    TAMPA — Ask Bucs coaches about the improved depth and health of their defensive line, and they'll look around for a piece of wood to knock on.

    Retired All-Pro defensive end  Simeon Rice, right, the last Buc to have double-digit sacks in a season,  works with defensive end Ryan Russell, who last season was promoted from the practice squad for the second half of the year as injuries piled up. He is competing for a backup job this year.
  5. Tampa man turns himself in for Sunday hit and run fatality

    Public Safety

    A Tampa man was arrested early Sunday after he struck and killed a pedestrian, left the scene, and then called 911 to turn himself in.